Georgia College Professor Uses Maple to Prepare Students for Life Beyond School - Maplesoft

User Case Study:
Georgia College Professor Uses Maple to Prepare Students for Life Beyond School

Professor Bruce Scranton wanted a teaching tool that would make the learning process more effective and better prepare his students for success in the professional world.

Scranton adopted Maple to minimize the burden on both himself and his students. Maple provided them with an easy-to-use math tool specifically designed to meet the needs of a STEM course.

Scranton has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from his students regarding Maple. Students are more confident and feel more prepared for life after university. In addition, the time saved by using Maple created time for other projects and more one-on-one time between instructor and student.

When it comes to education, working with the right technology is not only essential for effective learning, but it can also provide students with valuable tools to set them up for future success. Choosing the right teaching methods and assets can improve understanding and confidence, better preparing students for future education and career paths. This is especially true in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses, where students deal with complex subject matter. Bruce Scranton, a professor at Emmanuel College in Georgia, adopted Maple to better engage his students and equip them for long-term success.

Scranton originally spent 30 years working in the professional world, serving in a variety of roles relating to mathematics research, algorithm development, problem solving, sales and technical support. He then decided to pursue his passion for teaching, and became a faculty member at Emmanuel College more than a decade ago. At the time, Emmanuel had a course in computer programming, which Scranton felt was a valuable course for mathematics majors. "Computers are excellent tools we can use to help solve math problems," he said. "They force people to be precise and detailed, and they enforce a level of discipline."

Reviewing the math programming curriculum for the course, Scranton wasn't pleased with what he saw. He didn't want to have to teach his students a new language, with the necessary expenditure of significant, valuable time on syntax. There are more important things mathematicians should be learning, he believed. "There are big concepts in programming students should know about," he said. "Our goal is to help them think about and know how to understand each problem, design a solution for it, test and verify that solution, and document the process."

Based on his time working in industry, Scranton was convinced that mathematicians may become some of the best programmers and systems engineers due to their natural ability to think things through from start to finish, and be very deliberate about the process they follow. This led him to Maple, a tool designed by mathematicians for mathematicians. As department chair he took the initiative to develop a new course, Mathematical Solutions Technology, which he split into two parts. In the first half of the course, Scranton had his students working with Excel, to learn more about its various features, including all of the mathematical functions, beyond inserting and adding numbers. In the second half of the course, he introduced his students to Maple to see what they could do with a real math tool developed by mathematicians to specifically meet the needs of STEM courses. "It totally blew their mind," Scranton said. "After working really hard through Calculus courses using more traditional methods, they found out one could just enter expressions and have Maple calculate the answers. They had a lot of fun with it."


For Scranton, Maple also minimized the burden of having to teach his students various programming commands and syntax, as the software features a natural mathematical syntax that was easy to use. The time saved allowed Scranton to address some of the more fundamental aspects of programming. "Since I didn't have to spend the same effort on programming, the students and I were able to spend more time on communication and discussing why various functions and programming concepts were important," he said. "I place a lot of emphasis on communication in my courses."

The time saved by using Maple also provided extra time for a significant project at the end of the course. Students were able to pick the project they wanted to do, and Scranton worked with them on it as they roughed out a process, put together a presentation and wrote a technical report. "That's another nice thing about Maple," he said. "Not only did the students learn how to solve problems in Maple, but they could also write their report in Maple, which made things a whole lot easier for them."

Scranton has become a strong proponent of Maple for a number of reasons, most notably its ease of use, natural syntax and cost efficiency. The annual upgrades and reliable support from Maplesoft experts are also valuable selling points, he said. "Every year Maplesoft makes significant, substantial updates and improvements, to math capabilities and usability capabilities, so it remains a valuable and relevant tool," he said. "In addition, Maplesoft support is the best I've dealt with. I can ask questions, let them know I'm in a bind, and they respond quickly and thoughtfully with solutions. I've always felt like with Maplesoft, I was dealing with people that tried to understand and help."

Daniel LeCroy, a former student at Emmanuel who is now a professor at the college, was introduced to Maple in Scranton's class. He was instantly hooked by how easy Maple was to use and the convenience it offered. He continued to use it in other courses and uses it as a teaching tool today. LeCroy attributes Maple to helping him better understand key concepts and said it was of great benefit to him as a student. "From seeing planes in linear algebra to visualizing Newton's method in Calculus, the visual processing that Maple provided made my understanding very clear," he said.

Later on, during his research, LeCroy developed even greater appreciation for Maple's power and features. "I truly began to appreciate the speed at which Maple ran, doing nearly three-hundred calculations, along with derivatives, and comparing them all with a simple 'do' command that had finished in the time it would've taken me to write the first of the three-hundred equations! It made me realize just how powerful a tool I had," he said. "For me, Maple has a much more user-friendly interface than other math software. The learning curve is also not as steep, due to Maple's resources and in-depth user guide."

As a teacher, he values Maple's visualization tools that allow him to create accurate and appealing graphs that better engage his students during lessons. "I also use some of the slider features in the lessons to show them how transformations work. It is great for them to see the original graph along with this new one that was being manipulated before their eyes," he said. "I have used Maple many times in both high school and college settings, and received great response from my students."

Over the years Scranton's students have also responded well to Maple and are often amazed at its capabilities. "It is way beyond what I saw when I first started using Maple," he said. "The amount of thought and time students put into understanding solutions, being able to validate that they have a good answer, catching themselves in mistakes and fixing them, it is much better in Maple than with paper and pencil."

The ultimate goal from Scranton's perspective is to prepare students for the real world. Teaching in a small county in Northeast Georgia, where most kids haven't ventured far from the county, Maple is vital in setting students up for success in college and beyond, Scranton said. "I receive a lot of great feedback from my students, and I think my background has helped to give me a unique perspective," he said. "I want to be able to give them a different view of the world and strong preparation; Maple has enabled me to do that. Some of these students have gone on to big colleges and beyond, and they talk to me about how they felt like the work we did uniquely prepared them."

Contact Maplesoft to learn how Maple can be used in your classroom.

Personalized Demo:
Let us show you how Maple can be used in your school!

Fill in the form and we will be in touch shortly to arrange a time.

First name
Please enter your first name
Last name
Please enter your last name
Email address
Please enter your email
Invalid email format
Please enter your company
Please enter your title
Please select a country
Please select a region
You must agree to the Terms and Conditions to continue


Industry/Application Area